It would perhaps be a cliché to dwell on the economic influence that the year 2012 will witness. If the Lehman Brothers crisis was seen as a battle, then certainly we are heading for a dimension of global economic challenge not inferior to a world war. Fortunately, India was less influenced the last time. The new war will influence India more significantly at the government/politics level, but perhaps not influence very drastically — unlike other developed economies —the sentiments and ability of consumers to buy products and services to improve their quality of life.
The year 2011 has seen some significant influences that stand to impact consumer behaviour in terms of buying and usage of products and services. Some of these influences may have started earlier but dug in, in terms of impact, in the year and will influence behaviour going forward. Amongst several, I would like to talk about three of these in the Indian context which will significantly influence the consumer:
This will offer path-breaking opportunities for the development of new value-added services via infotainment-edutainment, both on the hardware and the software axis. The result of this would be higher efficiency, lower integrated costs, real consumer choices and rapid expansion of both existing and new markets.
New challenges will emerge for service providers, hardware makers/marketer, software developers, regulators and the very basis of the social fabric of the country. There would emerge a single product and service for information, education and entertainment at home, office or in transit. Perhaps, for the convenience factor, the physical products may vary for each — one for home, another for transit and yet another for office.
As convergence brings integration of hardware and software, the retail formats will undergo changes and adjustments. Retail formats will need to expose to consumers both hardware and software in a more integrated fashion. Consumer choices will be influenced by integrated conveniences, perceived quality and integrated total costs. This would initially largely influence the urban markets but would be downwardly mobile and move to other geographical and socio-economic stratas.
The consequence of technology development in the fields of information, communication and entertainment has been increasing awareness levels of consumers towards improving their quality of life, asserting their rights and comprehending the fact that they can influence the policies of the government. On the product axis, the year ahead will see more shampoos or biscuits or even sanitary napkins being bought and used across lower geographical and socio-economic strata.
There would be higher levels of penetration of mobile telephony, some with TV signal compatibility. Higher levels of education through
e-learning, more independence in mobility by acquisition of vehicles and higher electricity consumption both in farming and comfort at home will be the other trends for 2012.
There will be demand for higher efficiency at lower costs from service providers in all areas of communication and media.
It is so good to see more and more cases being brought to redressal forums for deficiencies in product or service. This would gain momentum, with greater awareness towards consumer rights in 2012. Awareness has and is influencing the desire to live in a clean society, devoid of not only poor hygiene and civic services but the more complicated issues of corruption.
The movements that have been initiated will gather greater momentum and more activity will be seen at social group levels at town and district levels. Satyagrahs in different manifestations will emerge as a consequence of consumer social awareness.
This very significant vehicle will see its influence not only enhanced in urban India but will begin to influence semi-urban India as well in the year ahead. Social media will see the formation of social groups that will influence purchasing decisions, retail formats, product pricing as well as demand better services and behaviour from civic and government bodies. Local derivates in vernacular as blogs and vehicles like Twitter will emerge and influence.
All in all, India will be influenced by global pressures of an economic war, but Indian consumers, who are at a very nascent stage of consumerism, will keep pursuing their aspiration to improve their quality of life and eagerly look towards 2012 for instruments that will positively influence their desire to feel happier.
The writer is Founder & CEO, Nobby Brand Architects & Strategic Marketing Consultants.